Open Adoption Contracts, I am on the fence.

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Jul 29, 2012

What are open adoption contracts?

Open adoption contracts are contracts signed by biological parents and adoptive parents at placement (or thereabouts) that outline the open adoption relationship. Some states have them. Some don’t. Some are enforceable. Some aren’t.

If you’ve been a reader for awhile, you know how I feel about open adoption.

Tyson having a Skype lunch date with his birth mother on his birthday.

 

That said, I am on the fence about enforceable open adoption contracts.

A couple weeks ago I spoke to Brooke Adams of The Salt Lake Tribune about the relationships we have with our kids’ birth families about how I feel things would have been different had we signed a contract when we were newbies in the adoption world.

I know we would have kept our promises, but would we have made the effort to have a relationship?

“This works for us because it can constantly evolve,” Redfern said. “When we started out, we had no idea what we wanted. What it looks like now is not what it looked like five years ago. My fear is that if we were to have signed a contract five years ago we would have grossly missed out on a huge relationship. … The beauty of not having it set in stone is it has been able to explode into [the birth mother being] part of our family, period.”

But there is flip side, she said. “I worry that not everybody is like us,” Redfern acknowledges, “and having a contract would protect a birth parent from adoptive parents who would say anything and then ‘peace out.’ I know birth families that have had that happen and I know adoptive families that have done that.” -Open adoption is norm; should arrangements be enforced?

I also know birth families who have promised adoptive couples that they will remain in an open relationship and then fall out of the picture. I worry about the child in those situations especially when an open adoption was promised.

 

How do you feel about enforceable open adoption contracts?

Tell me in the comments. I need to hear from you because I am seriously, seriously on the fence on it. I see HUGE negatives. I see HUGE positives.

Talk to me, people. 

 

 

85 Comments

  1. I have mixed feelings about a contract for open adoption. Like you, I can see the positives and negatives.

    Our birth mother, wants (wanted) a semi-open adoption and it is even written up in the placement agreement. We have sent her pictures, we text, email and visit. She only lives 3 hrs away from us, so visits are easy. Unfortunately, as of late, our birth mother has become homeless and is back on drugs after being clean 10 years. I text her and want to still have visits, but now, with the turn in circumstances, is it the safest thing for our daughter? We just have to take it one day at a time and the next time we hear from our birth mother, I will try to work something out. I miss her and want to see her.

    I share my story to illustrate that things do change, and if contracts were put into place in every state, then I feel that if one party wanted/needed to make changes then they should be allowed. Those changes however, would need to be done in front of a judge and with solid reasons.

    In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need things like open adoption contracts, but people don’t always follow through with their promises.

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    • Lindsey said on July 30, 2012 at 5:24 pm

      I love what Jessa said in the original article about them be able to be re-visited annually or bi-annually or something. I am not quote sure how that would happen, what the cost would be if attorneys are involved or what, but I like the idea of it being revisited.

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  2. I really, really, REALLY wanted what you have with your boys’ birth mother’s. So far, that has not happened, and I fear that it may never happen, because of the birth mother’s – for lack of a better word – issues. I don’t see us EVER closing the adoption like it was in olden days, but, for our safety and sanity, we have had to pull back A LOT. She was not happy, however, I don’t feel we went back on our agreements at placement, or even before. We were very careful to agree to visits as long as it was HEALTHY for EVERYONE. We even opened an email just for her, but that got a little out of hand, and I felt myself having an anxiety attack every time I saw her name pop up in my inbox. That is clearly NOT healthy for me. She was having anxiety and insomnia because she couldn’t stop thinking about him, also because she has not been in to get some help from the agency, which is clearly NOT healthy for her. For now, we have pulled back to just contact through the agency, which I feel will be better for now, but I would love to have something more. I would love to re-evaluate in a year or so. I personally don’t think a contract would have been helpful in my situation. If the contract had forced visits or emails on me, I think that may have pushed me to insanity! (HA!) Honestly, the relationship between adoptive parents and birth parents are so different in every case, that I don’t think a contract would be helpful at all – unless it is in those situations that you mentioned. But how can you know beforehand?? I think it is a case-by-case thing…That’s my two cents :)

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    • On second thought, a contract may have been helpful IF it was able to be re-evaluated in a couple of years. A lot of the problem currently, is that she can’t remember what we agreed to, and has not been able to establish healthy boundaries. Perhaps if we have a “penciled-in” contract in the beginning, that may have helped her…I am not sure. AHHHHH – I DON’T KNOW!!! :)

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      • Lindsey said on July 30, 2012 at 5:31 pm

        You know, I love that you mentioned this. I think it could have helped you. And I think the right contract may help set up those boundaries, you know?

        I don’t know either …you sound like me, back and forth and back and forth the more I think about it. Hence the birth of this post. I really don’t know where I stand on, so I will remain here on the fence I guess. The great thing about being on the fence is that you get a pretty clear view of both sides. :)

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    • Lindsey said on July 30, 2012 at 5:27 pm

      I hope you do re-evaluate because the relationships we have (and the boys have with their birth families) is fabulous and really healthy. Things change! I am so glad things didn’t get totally shut down. Here’s hoping everyone gets to have the open agreement they have always dreamed of!

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    • Remember that those of us (I’m thinking of myself and Lindsey specifically) with current open adoptions have been committed to developing our relationships for several years now, and really we are still just in the beginning as our kids aren’t that old yet. Aubrey, you little guy is still really young and you may yet be able to get there too. I agree with Lindsey that it may have been helpful in establishing a boundary upfront for you to have had an agreement. I think a big part of that is that expectations would have been made to be more clear with the help of the agency. Maybe that could have helped her understand things better if the agency were required to spell it out better.

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  3. It’s my understanding that legally binding contracts aren’t really enforceable anyway — but I’d be thrilled to hear differently. I’ve just never heard of consequences to the adoptive family for not following through on a contract.

    Even if a court enforced visitation for the first parents — if things are that sour in the relationship, and the adoptive parents are so sneaky as to renege on a contract about something so important, what’s to say they won’t turn the child against the first parents? In which case, court ordered visitation could do more harm than good. I certainly don’t think a court would ever return a child to its first parents because its adoptive parents refused to follow through on a contract — though whether they should or not is another matter entirely.

    I really like the idea of legally binding contracts, because with one you can still forge a close relationship with the first parents — whereas without one, the first parents are stuck if things go sour. The problem is I just can’t think of a workable way to actually enforce them.

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    • Lindsey said on July 30, 2012 at 5:29 pm

      I think they are enforceable in some states …but I don’t have any sources to give you on that.

      How do you feel about a fine if the adoptive parents don’t keep their commitment?

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  4. I’ve known too many adoptive couples who have promised the world and then cut their child’s birth parents out of their lives the second they can to think adoption contracts are a bad thing. Like all contracts there are stipulations and obviously if a birth parent was using drugs, those can/should be addressed in the contract.

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    • Lindsey said on July 30, 2012 at 5:29 pm

      So you are saying you think there should be like a substance abuse clause in it or something?

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  5. I’m on the fence too. For us, we verbally agreed to things at the beginning. And we adjusted as we went along, always with the consent of our son’s birth mother. As my son got older he started having a say in the relationship too. Because, honestly, it has a lot more to do with him than it does with me. He wanted more openness. We were able to provide that. My job is to help facilitate the relationship he has with HIS birth mother. She’s not MY birth mother. All relationships need the ability to breathe, to grow, to change. A contract doesn’t allow for that. I think it would be wiser to better educate prospective adoptive couples about openness, and better prepare them to deal with life post-placement. I think it would also be nice for adoptive parents to have access to social workers at their agency to help them navigate problems that may arise 2, 5, or 10 years down the road.

    I would LOVE to see every adoption work out perfectly, every adoptive parent live up to the promises they make, and every birth parent make healthy life choices. But there really is no way to enforce any such contract. Forcing the adoptive parents to keep an adoption open would require forcing the birth parent to always be a healthy influence in a child’s life. You can’t do it.

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  6. oh dear… here we go ;-)
    a contract is created to protect both parties involved.
    contract include clauses, contingencies and exemptions.
    that being said, an open adoption contract would need to be one that indeed protected BOTH parties.

    i think they are a necessity and should be legally enforceable in all states. they are a necessity because, lets get serious mrs R, hardly anyone [that ive seen] other than a small handful of wonderful people in the adoptive parent realm has the honest open loving desire to build a sincere relationship with birthfamilys the way you do/have, you are a splendid example but most definitely a unique gem in the adoption world. no you do not need one, you never did. but for the majority, esp in the lds community, i say yes! yes yes an open adoption contract is needed, warranted, and should be desired by both parties.

    if you arent willing to agree to what is laid out in the contract, if you arent willing to commit, then you should not be entering into that adoption. and if you ARE willing to agree to what is laid out in the contract, to the commitment you are about to embark on. then you probably dont ‘need’ the contract and therefore signing it doesnt matter in your moral dept. its like locking your luggage- it doesnt keep anyone but the honest people out so what really is the point of locking your luggage when someone who really wants to get into it can simply slice thru the fabric. but by locking it you feel protected, and on some level, you are protected.

    i think the PROCESS of creating the contract is an essential part of the whole idea. it forces both sides to look at what it is they really want and are really capable of committing to. which is often (from what ive seen and experienced) the biggest problem – one or both sides isnt sure what they ‘want’, what things like timelines and amts of pics and updates and visits REALLY means, which leads to massive miscommunication and unmet expectations [often not far] down the road. by sitting down and figuring out what the contract should say and include, when to re evaluate it etc, would be an excellent piece of starting that open honest trusting relationship. if the adoptive couple is uncomfy maybe they need more education and knowledge, if a birthparent is uncomfy maybe she needs more support and more options/ideas. with creating a contract each side knows what the other expects, each side knows what they are being held accountable for, each side is on.the.same.page! this is important in any relationship, so why shouldnt the open adoption relationship be just as prioritized as any other? a contract creates the initial steps of communication and we all know how well any sort of non communicative relationship works out.

    i only see good coming from an open adoption contract. any negatives that could come from having a contract are negatives that are also going to happen, and possibly more detrimental, from not having one. and i see more negative from not having one any way you spin it. as far as enforceability, i guess that would depend on the state… what would the punishment be? a fine? not being able to adopt again because you wouldnt be in ‘good standing’ with the state or agency or both?

    biased time.
    lets also get serious for a moment abt the birth parent aspect.
    yes adoption is really all abt the child and whats best for them blahblah. preachin to the choir.
    in the long run, yes the open adoption is better for the child (we’re assuming, lets see what bunches of adoptees say in the next 10-15 years) but in the short run, the first 0-5 yrs, open adoption is best for the birthmother. it most certainly facilitates healing. healing allows a full and happy future filled with endless opportunities. why wouldnt you want that for your childs birthmother?
    the birthmothers sacrifices her heart and soul for the love of her child and then all too often is massacred by the ultimate betrayal via the adoptive couple not doing what they said- what the birthmother trusted them to do. so who really needs to be protected, who really needs an ‘enforceable contract’, who really benefits from such a contract… the birthmother.
    and if you truly love that child, the child she trusted to you, then you should be begging to sign on the dotted line, as its the least you can do to honor her sacrifice, to demonstrate your love for her precious flesh and blood.

    if youre planning on doing what you say you are going to do, then put it in writing and sign the piece of paper- own it.

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    • Amen, birthMOM! I’m with you. We do not have any kind of contract with our son’s birth mother, but I would have had no trouble signing one. We were VERY clear about the kind of contact we were willing to have. She agreed, and now 2.5 years later we have WAY more contact and a much more open relationship with her than we ever could have imagined.
      I think that creating a legally binding contract forces potential adoptive parents to REALLY think hard about what they are willing to commit to. (ie- monthly letters for the first year are standard. We knew that we are too scatterbrained to do that, so we only agreed to quarterly letters.) The standard should be under promise and over deliver when it comes to open adoptions. Then the worst could be the the agreement was at least met, not that promises that were made but not kept, as is far too often the case.

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      • “The standard should be under promise and over deliver when it comes to open adoptions.” Totally agree!

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      • LOL, I just said the same thing before I read yours about underpromising and over delivering :)

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    • I totally agree that this would help both parties sit down and decide what they both can agree to. I believe it is WA and maybe PA that have legally enforceable ones already.

      The one thing I would say and we would try to do if this ever becomes a possibility for us is to try to work with the birth mom to put the minimum of what you are both willing to accept into this document. Do not over commit on either side. That way you can grow and build it yourselves into that relationship and develop it between yourselves, and don’t feel you are only doing what are mandated to do. If you know reasonably you cannot visit more than once per year because the trip is too much or you don’t have enough vacation, do not set expections on either side that you will. Also it can be very scary to an adoptive family to commit to a ton up front until they settle into a pattern or for the birthmom until she knows how she will feel emotionally.

      I also agree that there needs to be clauses to protect the child and the adoptive family from drugs, crime and abuse. And it should be able to be re-evatulated just like is done with divorce custody as situations change.

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  7. I see it much like you. We have a very open adoption relationship and if there was a contract in place, I am not sure the relationship would have gone the same way, because we were scared in the beginning. But I also think it would be helpful, because some families do pull out of their agreements. I am not sure what should happen!

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  8. Like I said on FB, I have mixed feelings as well. My personal experience has only been as a DCFS caseworker, facilitating foster-adopt adoptions. I think it’s a very different situation than private placements, but this was a constant issue, nonetheless. I often sat in meetings with the birth parents, and the adoptive parents, where the birth parents said that they would voluntarily sign over their rights if the adoptive parents would do A, B, C. And we had to make it extremely clear that we could not make ANY promises. The judge even asks that in the TPR hearing.

    I do think that a contract allowing minimal contact (pictures, letters, etc., through a 3rd party) is almost always a good thing. But I don’t think there should ever be a contract in place saying th ese are the *only* things that will happen. I think something stating these are the minimal things we will do, and everything else is open, is probably where I stand.

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    • As an adoptive mom through the foster system, I find this very interesting – we had an experience like you described, where the biological parents said they would relinquish is we did this, this, and that. We happily agreed, and fully expected to be signing some kind of agreement. Sadly, her behaviors digressed after this, her rights were forcibly terminated, she made threats to our family and began following me, and she is currently using drugs and pregnant again. We so wanted that openness for our daughter, but it just isn’t safe at this time – and I can’t help but wonder what might have happened had that contract been signed before she started down her dark path again. Perhaps as suggested above, some sort of substance abuse clause? A third party contact? But who – department workers are stretched so this as it is. I know it’s a different issue than with private placements, but something I have thought so much about.

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  9. I can see how it can be a good idea, but I overall don’t think it should be required. I also have very open adoptions with my kids birth parents (We see them 4-6 times per year) and it is wonderful. I know that not everyone is comfortable with the openness that we have. If I had a contract, I think I wouldn’t be as close with my kids birth parents. It would feel like something I had to do instead of something I wanted to do. Plus, there have been different amounts of openness throughout the process because of what is going on in our lives or the birth parent’s lives. For example, my son’s birth father was in jail for a while. We obviously didn’t see him then, and I was hesitant about too much conact after he got out for the safety of my child. He has since cleaned up his life and is a wonderful man that we enjoy having an open adoption with now. But the child’s needs need to come first. What if I signed a contract for contact and then my kids go through a time where they don’t want to see their birth parents? Do I force them because of a contract? I just don’t see it being something that is best for the child, and that is what adoption is all about. The child’s well being. It is terrible that some adoptive parents break promises for selfish reasons though. Makes me sick.

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  10. We have open adoption with our two little girls birthmoms. I love it! That being said I really get sick at the idea of a contract. We were matched with a birth mom (the adoption didn’t happen) who had issues come out and our safety was threatened. I can’t imagine how that would feel if a baby or child was involved. Also, I feel like it would cheapen my and my girls relationships with their birthmoms if it was a contract, not a choice that we make. We send pictures, letters, text and talk back and forth, and I love that our reason for staying in touch is our love for these girls, and love and respect for each other. That being said, because of past experience I know not all relationships can be like this, and not all children have birthmoms like my girls. It should always be about the well being of the child, and if the adoptive parents have been trusted to raise this child and have full legal responsibility, we should trust them to make the right choices. It may not happen with everyone, but biological or adopted, parents make mistakes, and as long as they are trying their hardest to do what is best for their child, I think they should have the right to make those choices.

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    • Lindsey said on July 30, 2012 at 5:34 pm

      “Also, I feel like it would cheapen my and my girls relationships with their birthmoms if it was a contract, not a choice that we make.”

      I have never thought of that before. I too love that our reason for staying in touch with our kids birth parents (and yes, their birth fathers too!) is because we LOVE these boys so much. Would a contract cheapen it? Or would it make it more iron clad? I don’t know.

      You do sign a contract when you get married and I don’t feel like that cheapens my relationship with my spouse …I feel like it makes it official.

      Great food for thought!

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      • Great comparison to marriage and the committment. You make it out of love.

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        • It gets so complicated! I guess it’s one of those times when you wish people would follow through with their word and just be nice to each other!

          One thing I loved that our agency did is they had in writing the expectations for pics, communication, etc that were there and we both signed it. I think it made things very clear about expectations there. Even though it’s not legally binding it was nice to sign all of our names there, just so we knew we were all on the same page. I get sick thinking about signing something like that and not meaning it, no matter how legal it is, I could never explain lying like that to my girls.

          At the end of the day I am just so happy to have the relationships that we have with our girls birthmoms, and to have people who can answer some of the questions that I can’t as they grow older.

  11. Michelle said on July 30, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    We have a semi-open adoption. We have agreed to pictures and letters at certain times. Which we have always done and sometimes for special events I send additional. She agreed to sending us pictures and letters for our son. Pictures of her other children and herself as a child. These were all written up and we each got a copy. They are not binding at all but what we agreed to. In addition she has asked to see him once at 3 months and we did. She was in jail and continues to keep going back to jail every few months. When she first gets in jail she always askes to see him. We have had to tell her not while she is in jail but as soon as she is out if she remains clean and sober we will do a visit at the agency office. I would like to keep our adoption open and I think she would as well but under the circumstances it is hard as she is in jail or homeless drinking and on drugs. I think for now the agreement we have is good and I like that is it isn’t binding so that we can be flexible depending on her situation at the time. I do wish that she would write letters and send photos on her part like agreed for my son.

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    • Lindsey said on July 30, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      Hi Michelle! Thanks for sharing.

      Quick question for you: Do you feel like you would have more of an actual relationship had there not been a contract or do you feel like things may have just fallen through the cracks and all contact ended?

      I too wish you had those promised letters and pictures. I think knowing your biological siblings adds depth to your soul. I wish we had more on my oldest son’s biological siblings. We are working on it! :)

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  12. I’ve read the comments and have to say I’m against having enforceable contracts, but let me clarify I’m all for open adoption! I think you hit the nail on the head earlier – having a contract would have limited the relationship and love we have with our son’s birth mother. In our case we had verbal agreements before our son was born. It was simple, letters and pictures and she was going to let us decide how often to send them. I think having no pressure from her really helped me feel comfortable with her and learn to love her as part of our family. So I offered more openness and we were all happy. This was our first time adopting and I had no idea of the emotions after placement. We kept things super open for the first few months. Then it needed to be adjusted to “reset” our family. We really needed some space to feel like our son’s parents. To meld as a family. She wasn’t happy about that and we felt bad but we really needed to be able to make that emotional connection with our son. After we did, things have been a lot more open and I feel healthier on both sides. We even attended her wedding! Now we talk, skype, text, Facebook, in addition to monthly letters and pictures. We love her and appreciate her. We respect that she will always be a part of our son and he a part of her. Not having a contract allowed us to arrive at that point on our own, driven out of love, not legal obligation. I honestly think contracts will only diminish open relationships to obligations with resentment on both sides. I’m not a birth mother, but I can only assume a birth mother would rather be welcomed into her son’s life out of love rather than being there out of obligation. Yes, a contract would protect those who get screwed by lying, desperate adoptive parents. But is that the answer for everybody? I don’t think so. Any relationship evolves over time and both sides should be allowed to request changes.

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    • Lindsey said on July 30, 2012 at 5:47 pm

      Do you feel like had there been a contract in place that maybe you wouldn’t have needed that time to “reset” your family? Perhaps thinking of the contract as written and discussed and thought-out boundaries for both sides?

      “Not having a contract allowed us to arrive at that point on our own, driven out of love, not legal obligation.” And this …this is where my heart is coming from. But, it occurred to me in a previous response to a comment, that I have a commitment contract with my husband called our marriage license/marriage certificate/sealing certificate and it was driven out of love–in fact, as time goes on, that license means more to me now.

      We don’t have a prenup but I feel like I am kind of thinking of these openness contracts as an adoption prenup. What do you think about that?

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  13. I’m also kind of torn but I do lean on the side of contracts as a means of ensuring a minimum amount of contact with regards to updates and pictures. I believe it protects both sides. I think a lot of the misunderstandings and resulting fallout from broken promises is that often both parties aren’t sure of what they want upfront. So this forces both parties to think long and hard about what level of openness they want. I remember going to a birthparent panel once where a birthmom, six months out from placement was very heartbroken and very desperate for a visit. The overall tone in the room was how dare this adoptive family not allow a visit and the family was going back on their word. At the very end she (birthmom) admitted that before placement she had wanted just one visit a year and chose a family that wanted one visit a year too. So when after placement her feelings changed things got ugly. I think in this case had both parties been signing a contract it would have made them think long and hard about what they were REALLY wanting and really willing to do. Such a hard thing when feelings change after placement.

    As an adoptive mom I would have had no problems with signing a contract promising a set amount of updates, pictures and such. We are in an open adoption with visits when we can manage it but I guess I would have drew the line at signing any contract regarding visits. Too many variables that have been discussed: birthparents that may be using, whether the child wants the visits (older child), distance the parties live from each other. We live several states away from our daughter’s birthmom so once you factor in hotel and car rental and a $300 plane ticket (each) a simple visit can get very expensive. With regards to how jobs can change and people relocate I probably wouldn’t have been willing to sign my name on a contract regarding visits.

    Definitely a lot of pro’s and cons…

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  14. My thoughts, but I can still see both sides of this. However for my situation… this is what I think. http://birthmotherbaskets.blogspot.com/2012/07/open-adoption-is-norm.html#links

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  15. No. Flat out, I don’t think that a contract is a good idea. You can’t enforce it. Period. What are the consequences going to be? A fine? Not being allowed to adopt again? Relinquishing custody back to the birth parent? Court mandated visits? There are too many legal issues involved.

    I believe that before a couple’s profile is even shown to expectant parents that open adoption training and counseling needs to be mandated. There are enough couples now who have healthy, functioning relationships with their children’s birth parents that at MINIMUM a panel needs to be held for people considering adoption. I think that the whole thing comes down to education on the adoptive parent’s part. There should be two sets of adoptive parents; one with a fully open adoption and one with a closed adoption. There also should be at least two birth parents (preferably who placed with one of the couples) as well, along with an adult who was adopted who was either in an open relationship or a closed one to discuss their concerns. I believe, FIRMLY that those who are on the fence would understand the benefits for ALL parties involved if some level of openness is agreed upon.

    I believe that if a couple is educated beforehand, they’re less likely to promise the moon and then re-negotiate. I also believe that just as counseling is offered to birth parents after placement, it should also be offered to adoptive couples. Especially as groups. You’re less likely to drop out if you have a support system. I adore our daughter’s birth mom, but I have to say that I wish I’d had someone to talk to about what she was going through and what we were experiencing with her. I think some sort of buddy system would help immensely. Literally when we left the hospital with our daughter, we dropped off the face of the earth as far as the agency went. I would feel resentful during the stress of the first three months when I would get an e-mail saying “She needs pictures RIGHT NOW.” She had every reason to request pictures, but in talking to her about it later I found out that I was resenting her when she’d just kind of mentioned to her caseworker that she loved getting pictures.

    Adoptive parents need to be educated. I’ve been working with friends who are in the process to educate them on what a real, functioning open adoption looks like. They aren’t all the same. Some of the wonderful suggestions I’ve read here for things to do for birth parents frankly really upset C and made her feel really uncomfortable. I can’t read her half the time; I worry I’m smothering her by sending her too much (which comes from her no longer responding to me) or I’m freezing her out by not having enough. You can’t have a contract because people, situations and emotions change. Hourly in some cases.

    I’m a convert to open adoption. My husband and I were totally against it beyond a yearly letter. Our daughter’s birth mom agreed at the time. Had we signed a contract, I would have felt bound and restricted by it. You can’t sign something like that before the baby’s born, which is also why I don’t think expectant parents should be asked to sign consent forms before their baby is born. You don’t know what’s actually going to happen. We never counted on falling head over heels adoringly in love with C. I loved her beforehand, but after those five days in the hospital I would have walked over coals for her and not just because she turned us into parents. We agreed to the minimum and ended up with a relationship where she and I (usually) text several times a week and where she asks my opinion about baby names and flower girl dresses.

    Having been a flip flopper from the other direction, having struggled at times with our open adoption (yes, I resented her request once for a visit and now I’m the one bugging her) and the plain fact that it would be grossly unfair to enforce it the other way (if an adoptive couple started hounding a birth mom for a visit when she wasn’t in a good place for it, frankly I’d be appalled) and that you just plain old can’t enforce a contract based purely on emotions I don’t think that there would be any productive way to have contracts.

    However, I do advocate (obnoxiously) for open adoptions whenever I feel I’m given the chance. “What day is it?” “Tuesday. Do you know how awesome open adoptions are?”

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    • Well from what i have been hearing the adoption training is now going to be done online. what then. Want to know how i got my food handlers, cpr, and first aid cert…online. did i learn anything?? Nope. Same thing will go for online adoption training.

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      • you are correct. starting oct 1st of this year, LDSFS will no longer be holding education meetings or conferences via FSA, like they have in the past.
        LDSFS will be referring adoptive couples to outsourced online education programs to receive their state required ‘training’.

        its a travesty if you ask me.

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        • Lindsey said on July 30, 2012 at 5:58 pm

          Whoa. I know we’ve emailed about this, but I guess I didn’t think about it as the end of the conferences. Is that what you are saying?

        • Does this mean that there aren’t any more group events through LDSFS? We’re just starting our process with them (finishing up the first batch of paperwork) and friends who have used them in the past said they have lots of programs to connect you with other families who are waiting to adopt and who have adopted, which sounded great to us.

      • Lindsey said on July 30, 2012 at 5:57 pm

        I don’t know much about the changes at LDSFS as I am not connected with them at all, but I do feel that this is really sad. Makes me want to push my presentations at the conference here in Utah with more gusto!

        15.1.2
      • IN PA, my agency did a triaining via CDs. Have to admit that I didn’t pay that much attention, just answered teh questions in my workbook. I don’t recall anything about open adoption even being mentioned in the training or from the SW that did my home study.

        15.1.3
  16. it seems that most, if not all, of the comments have been from adoptive parents. what do birth mothers think?
    i don’t think forcing relationships is ever a good idea and with life naturally ebbing and flowing there are bound to be issues that won’t fit into a contract.
    i also think that it is most important to respect your child’s birth mother. our daughter’s birth mother wanted a closed adoption and as much as we wanted more, we have to respect her feelings. that may change in the future but i wouldn’t want to force her into anything.
    i think parents have to first and foremost look out for the best interest of their child. bringing a child around anyone who is dealing with significant issues is never a good idea no matter who it is, but there are ways to remain in contact.
    unfortunately/fortunately, once the child is placed for adoption all legal rights belong to the adoptive parents. the decision was made by the birth parents to choose a family to raise their child and they also have to respect the decisions of that child’s adoptive parents as the people they entrusted their child to.

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  17. I think what a contract does it forces the adoptive couple to be honest about what they can/will handle so that the birthmom is assured in what she is walking into by placing with them….For me it is more about the couple being forced to be honest.

    I also don’t think some of you are seeing it from a birthmom’s perspective or an adoptee’s perspective. A lot of the comments I see are me, me , me and a lot of them are based on fear or hypothetical, or not “norm” situations. If you look at the majority of birthmoms it isn’t going to be that scary. We as birthparents are turning OUR children over to you for time and for some of you eternity. The LEAST you could do is sign a legally binding document saying that you will promise to send us a letter once a year with a picture. I mean come on….

    I also would like to point out that if you reevaluate the contract on a yearly or as needed basis this helps work any kinks out and goes with the flow of an ever changing relationship. this way if someone is not respecting healthy boundaries it can be fixed, it also prevents those adoptive couples ridden with their own insecurities of their infertility issues.

    It saddens me to read so many of these comments. It makes me curious as to how my birth daughter’s mom truly feels about me.

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    • Lindsey said on July 30, 2012 at 5:55 pm

      Well she loves you, Jessa. You can see it all over those photos and your daughter’s face.

      I love your reevaluate idea. I think it’s a must. Any ideas on how that would look? Attorneys involved? Informal? Social workers? (I know my husband would love to help anyone with this–he’s done it before.) Just wondering what you think is best.

      The commitment thing is POWERFUL for me. I think you mentioned more about it over on Desha’s page, but I love how you said that an expectant mom is showing a HUGE UNREAL level of commitment and faith to you as she gives you a pieces of her flesh and blood. Hopeful adoptive parents returning that level of commitment is a REALLY powerful message for me. I. LOVE. THAT.

      I am so glad you are part of my adoption journey.

      XOXO

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  18. I live in Oregon which has legally enforceable contracts. I don’t have them in either of our adoptions, but I have read several versions of a contract and they in no way limit the type of relationship from growing, evolving, being flexible- those who say it would limit them don’t have very good imaginations. It is a minimum. They also are flexible so if there are issues such as drugs, it can be resolved as well. It’s fear, plain and simple. And while I understand to some degree, fear, it is just fear, perpectuated by insecurity and myths and nastiness that is promoted by the media about birthparents- ie- the child will be mine when s/he gets old enough/grown up- and insecurity of parenting roles… which I don’t get- it is so apparent who the parent is(LOL) when we are all together- I know I am mom and what makes it cool is that since I know that I can enjoy the connections/similarities my kids have to/with their birthfamilies. It helps to have awesome birthfamilies too. Although if you don’t a contract can help protect you also. I know of multiple situations where stated expectations would have made a huge difference and knowing each member individually- each person is awesome, but communicate very differently and things would have been much smoother had their been a blueprint to follow and then the relationship allowed to develop. Again- having read several versions and spoken with attorneys who draft them- if either party finds it to be unhealthy, etc, no one is forced to have contact/visits and the agreement can be modified. But it gives a starting place and protects both birthmoms and adoptive couples. Do I think they need to be required in every adoption? Nope, but I think they are a good idea and especially birthparents should have that option to choose and if an adoptive couple doesn’t want one- well- sounds like not the right match. I think as adoptive couples we need to ask ourselves if I really am okay with letters/pictures/updates/visit once a year or whatever… why not sign saying so? If it scares you to commit to that, then you need to figure out why. It really just gives a minimum. I know that the rhouse readers wouldn’t promise the moon and renege in any sort of malicious way, but I have met couples who have…for no reason… the pain that brings is awful. We, as adoptive couples have to be honest and up front. Anyhow- having read a few- there is nothing scary- you aren’t suddenly committed to 18 years of daily contact, no parenting choices are taken from you, it doesn’t allow birthfamilies to become second parents or anything like that. It makes everyone involved think and I think it is great. So… just my two cents. And if everyone was like Lindsey (love you!!) we wouldn’t need them, but sometimes help is needed navigating these unique relationships in adoption.

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    • Lindsey said on July 30, 2012 at 5:56 pm

      Carrie! I have an email in draft form ready to send to you. I want you to do a guest post for me in August …I will beg if I have to! ;)

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      • I would love to!! BUT we have to get together when I am in Utah Aug. 13-17th! Pick the day and I am there! PLAYDATE!! Send me the email. :)

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        • Hey, I’m going to be in Utah during that time too? Can we crash your play date? I’d love to meet both of you IRL. (sad that I’ve never met Carrie, as we live in the same place, time to fix that!)

          • HAHA! YES!

          • Megan- I think we met once, briefly, at an OR FSA thing, but I would love to have us all hang out!! Serious- pick the day and lets do it! Kids can play and we can chat!

    • Beautifully said, Carrie! I kept wanting to bust out an “amen”!

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    • Carrie is the domb diggity. I agree whole-heartedly with this comment. (And pretty much every other thing Carrie does and says….)

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    • Well said! :) I kept thinking, “Yup, yup, exactly!”

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  19. We’re in a state that now requires they be offered to every birth parent. For better or worse, it’s what we’ve got most likely. I’m with you that we should all be able to count on our word being good enough. Sadly, I know it’s not true. We will happily offer them to any birth parent we work with, and we will abide by whatever we promise with or without a piece of paper.

    It does challenge me that *if* in the interest of protecting my adopted child I need the contract to change that I have to get before a judge (perhaps quickly) to be able to protect him/her or risk being sued.

    Additionally, our state’s law is now offering these contracts to birth grandparents. In one situation we were presented with the grandparents wanted contact but the mother did not, yet she was very close with her own parents. We were quite confused about how that would actually work. (We aren’t the ones: this law is less than 2 years old in our state and attorneys are still scrambling to see how they’ll play out case-by-case.)

    I pray we’ll never have to face the situations – I look forward to an open adoption where we can show our children how much each person in their life loves them.

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    • The birth grandparent issue is very interesting. I’d love to read more about that.

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      • From all that we were able to ascertain the photos, letters, etc would be forwarded directly to the grandparents and then it was their responsibility to keep it from their daughter. That this was perhaps not the healthiest of situations was not lost on them, and throughout the process they went back and forth wanting it so badly, but also wanting to respect their daughter’s wishes.
        They were so very supportive of their daughter in whatever decision she made, but I think inwardly they really struggled with the thought of losing contact with their grandbaby and were overjoyed when she ultimately decided to parent.
        It certainly does create complex situations as we could potentially have different contracts with siblings and parents (and beyond that even too) of the birth parents. Couple in divorce and/or remarriage in any of these individuals’ lives and we could end up with dozens of contracts.

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  20. Well put Carrie! :)

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  21. Shannon said on July 30, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    I do not think that there should be a contract for open adoptions. I DO AGREE with the counseling for adoptee parents for open adoption and closed adoption so, than they would totally UNDERSTAND about both of them. I am an adoptee and also a birthmother. I gave my birthdaughter up to open adoption. I understand what it likes being an adoptee from closed adoption and why this is the only way I could chose Open Adoption for my birthdaughter. I dont want her to go through the feelings of abandonment and wondering for many years of why my Birth Mother didnt keep me. Don’t get me wrong, I have an awesome, loving adopted family that loves me. I started acting out when I was about 12 because I just didnt feel like I fit in with my adopted family. I dont want to see my Birthdaughter or anyone elses adopted children go through that!!! I finally found my birthfamily back in 2008 and I am finally at peace!! I now know where I came from and why I was put up for adoption and I have my closure. Now I am closer to my Adopted Family more than ever!! I also have my birth family members.
    I just want adopted parents to understand what it’s like to be a birthmother and an adoptee. All I wanted for my birthdaughter was to be well taken care of and have everything that I could not give her!!! God Bless!!

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    • Thank you so much for your perspective, Shannon! I love hearing from adult individuals who were adopted. So grateful you have found peace!

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  22. Crystal Rae said on July 30, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    I moved from Az back to Mn to place my daughter once I found out that the contracts are enforceable in Minnesota. As a birthmom who had never explored adoption before I got pregnant there was SO much to learn & as far as I was concerned her placement & happiness were my full time job until she was born. I felt like the contract gave me something to fall back on if circumstances changed in some way. My attorney gave me good advice when we were writing up the contract (which her parents graciously let me include anything I wanted to) and that was to simply include what my “bare minimums” were. What was it that I thought I could not go without?
    Flash forward to today… our relationship is MUCH more then I ever dreamed it would be. Have we ever even spoken of the contract since the day it was signed? No. Did it give me a “safety net” that I felt like I needed at the time to be reassured that my baby was growing up happy & healthy? Absolutely.

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    • Oh this is so beautiful, Crystal! I love everything about this and I LOVE your perspective and you attorney sounds like an amazing man. I need to have you guest post along with Carrie. I will be in touch soon. :)

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  23. If open adoption contracts end up allowing the adoption industry to quickly absovle themselves of any further support for members of the triad post adoption (because hey! they’ve put together a contract that legally establishes the necessary relationship between original and adoptive families) then I say they’ve got to go. I echo every other commenter’s sentiments that counseling is the best way to ensure successful open adoptions. Sadly, counseling post adoption is very rare and so it is not surprising that so much fear, misunderstanding, miscommunication and stereotyping still exists between those in the triad.

    That said, I do support open adoption contracts most improtantly to protect the rights of the first families and the adoptees to have contact with each other should that be what they want. If we as adoptive parents aren’t willng to support that contact then we should not be entering into open adoption. Yes, there may be circumstances when the child’s safety needs to trump the open adoption agreement but truly this is the minority.

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  24. Forgive me if my thoughts are disorganized. I have been pondering about this all afternoon before trying to formulate a response. I think the “bare minimum” or “safety net” is exactly what contracts need to be there to provide (at the VERY least!). I feel so yucky when I hear about couples closing the adoption without any contact with birth family. I can’t imagine not wanting openness, but I know I used to think that closed was ideal before I started the adoption process because of myths and misconceptions I accepted as truth/fact because of my own fears and insecurities. I not only feel sad for the birth families who are shut out this way, and for what the children miss out on by not having their birth parents physically there to share their unconditional love, but I feel so sad for the adoptive family to be missing out (by choice, usually) on such a beautiful gift of a uniquely wonderful relationship!!!

    I can’t help but also think that a really positive thing that could evolve from a contract requirement would be that an agency/attorney is required to provide that support in re-evaluating as needed. I have heard of many different agencies leaving BOTH adoptive parents and birth parents to figure out things for themselves without enough education. I think the education outsourcing idea currently being talked about with LDSFS is TRAGIC. That being said, as many hours as I pour myself into adoption advocating (which is anywhere from 20-60+ hours a month), the couples I reach still often don’t understand my way of thinking about openness. I think we can all agree that much improvement in the overall system is needed. Perhaps these agreements could begin to help us improve communication and require all of us to be more vigilant.

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  25. I think a Good Faith Agreement could be a good thing. Not something too official but, something to inspire each party to be honorable. Like a contract, but more relaxed, fluid and positive sounding.

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  26. As an adoptive parent with a daughter from China we were never given the opportunity for an open adoption. When we decided on China and found this out, I thought I was ok with that. I thought—I will love her enough to make up for that. Now that we have our daughter home, of course we have all fallen head over heels in love with her. And as time went, I started to think about how devastated she might feel one day about not having a connection or ANY INFO on her birth family. It hurts me to the core… :( We have this beautiful, smart and loving daughter and I just wonder who were her birth parents and that they must have been some amazing people.

    We decided to hire someone in China to try and find our daughters foster family that had taken care of her for almost 2 years. Last month we found them and have already emailed several times and we just received a package of clothing she loved, stuffed animals and photos of her. This is PRICELES TO US and hopefully will be one day to her as well.

    So, I say all of that to say…..IF we had done a domestic adoption I WOULD DEFINITELY want an agreement of some sort (it wouldn’t have to be a legal document for me personally) to detail the minimum amount of contact you would want. If you are thinking about adoption…IT REALLY IS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD to keep in some sort of contact with their birth parents and if I could do one thing for our daughter, it would be to find her birth parents in China. Unfortunately that isn’t even an option. :(

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  27. Heather said on July 30, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    I think Desha hit the nail on the head with “if you arent willing to agree to what is laid out in the contract, if you arent willing to commit, then you should not be entering into that adoption. and if you ARE willing to agree to what is laid out in the contract, to the commitment you are about to embark on. then you probably dont ‘need’ the contract and therefore signing it doesnt matter in your moral dept.”

    In PA, the contract must be offered to all Bparents but just because they want it doesn’t mean that the AP had to agree. weird.

    I am all for enforceable contracts as APS need to hold true to their promises and not use open adoption as a dangling carrot to essentially “get” a child. And that’s what it is to me when those lies are used to entice an expectant mom. I understand where those who think they can limit things are coming from however, they can be seen as a minimum. Things can always be more.

    I don’t have an agreement with my son’s birthmother but we talk, email, exchange pics and visit when we can. I probably send her at least a message a week, photos every time I download them from cam and we’ve done 5 visits in a year, one with only 15 minutes notice.

    I”m reading that there are concerns and examples over birthparents who start to go down a negative path and how that will impact the contract. From my understanding, at least here in PA, if there is anything that would be seen as detrimental to the child, the contract can be voided. My question for all of you to think about is, will taking ALL contact from the birthparents do anything to help them fix that path? I personally think it won’t and in fact it will likely make their behaviors worse. Having some assurance that they will maintain knowledge of the amazing child that has allowed you to be called mom or dad is something they should be able to count on, at least to me it is.

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    • Amen, Heather. I appreciate your insight. It is nice to hear a compassionate voice regarding “wayward” birthmothers. I would hope that others who adopt might have charity for birthmothers, even those whose choices are not ideal.

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  28. I have mixed feelings about contracts, but in some ways I think one would have been good for our open adoption. I definitely feel that the agency really dropped the ball on assisting both us as an adoptive couple and also our child’s birth family when it came to facilitating discussions about what we all wanted in our adoption. I have been around on adoption message boards and things for years and felt I had a good understanding of what open adoption entailed, but we were still flexible and not exactly sure of what we wanted. Things have gone very well in working with our child’s birth mother and building a good relationship with her… it’s the birth grandmother that has been an issue. What she wants is SO much more than what we were envisioning, and it has been very difficult to set boundaries. And in this case our child’s birth grandmother runs a lot more of the show than I was expecting. Our other adoptions have not been like this, in those cases our other children’s birthmothers have been the ones in charge. I feel a great deal of confusion and guilt as well as I try to sort out what the actual boundaries should be, whether or not we’re being selfish or just getting manipulated.

    We had ONE agency-facilitated conversation about openness, and that was when we were announced to. One conversation is absolutely not enough. We were told by the caseworker that there would be at least one more meeting, which never happened when our baby was born a few weeks early. We did sign an agreement for the six months prior to finalization, an agreement which we were very comfortable with, and within two weeks our baby’s birth grandmother was pushing for more visits–lots more. It quickly got out of control for us and we had to begin setting limits on the frequency, and ever since then (almost 2 years now), I feel like there is a constant push and pull between us, her always wanting more, us trying to pull back. It would be very nice to have something in writing to refer to to say, “hey, this is what we promised”. We did talk about things, but I am guessing that our recollections of what was said are quite different from hers…that’s where a written agreement would be so nice to fall back on.

    I think education about openness is needed for both adoptive families and birth families, not just adoptive families. I think our child’s birthmom received good counseling and has a good understanding (and her desires and style of contact mesh well with ours)… but the rest of her family, not so much. One thing that I think comes into play here is different family styles, and that is something that I feel a caseworker could easily bring out when facilitating discussions. Something that birth families and adoptive families might not think of on their own. We certainly never did. Our child’s birth grandma has an extremely close-knit family, sees her own mother several times a week, gets together with extended family weekly, etc. Our families are also close and happy, but with more space. I may see my mother once a month… maybe. My sibligns get together every few months. So there is a huge clash in styles. Dh and I are more independent and private, so too much contact feels suffocating. We are looking at a relationship closer to what we enjoy with our own families–getting together occasionally, having a great time, then leaving everyone to live their lives for awhile before getting back together. This will always feel “not enough” to our child’s birth grandmother, I’m afraid. She wants our relationship to be like what she experiences with her own family. What we discussed at that initial meeting was along the lines of monthly visits for the first year, every other month for the second year, then moving to 4 or so times a year by the third year and beyond. I wish we had that in writing now that we are at almost the third year and grandma is still expecting monthly visits and expressing that quite vocally. I am trying to get ready for a heart-to-heart conversation but I just crumble in real conversation because I know I am hurting her, and I don’t want to do that. Our child’s birth mom pretty much stays out of our relationship with her mother, and they are having their own issues with one another, so I can’t fall back on what she (birth mom) wants.

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    • Laurel, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! With every adoption being individual and unique, I find it very comforting when I hear about people with similar situations!

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  29. We have two sons, ages 2 and 4, both we adopted. From the beginning we wanted to have an open relationship with their birth moms and would have signed a contract, if we had been asked to, in order to set up at least some minimal level of interaction. That being said, both of our birth moms thought that they wanted a closed adoption before our sons were born. This was not what we wanted, but we wanted to respect their desires. I have to say, in both cases, we had the same case worker and he was amazing. He tried to give them some counseling about why open adoption would be beneficial, not only for them but for the baby, while still allowing them to make their own choice. He also prepared us with the knowledge that their desires might change. Both of our birth moms are amazing women and I have to say I share the quality of determination (or some would say stubbornness) that they each have. They were each determined for their own reasons (and not illogical or bad reasons; they thought they would be protecting their child from the details of their lives) that it would be better and easier if the adoptions were closed. If we had signed a contract before the boys were born it would have said that the adoptions would be closed, because that is what they said they wanted. Maybe this isn’t how contracts work or when they would be used, I don’t know the details.

    After each of the boys was born, they changed their minds. They wanted to get pictures and letters. They wanted to know that their child was happy, healthy, and that they had made the right choice. I am NOT suggesting they are fickle people in any way. It is so hard to know what you will feel and think and do before actually going through the experience. Is there really anything that can properly prepare someone for those emotions on either side? As I said, we wanted the adoptions to be open anyway, so this was not a problem for us, but what if we had gone into the placement wanting a closed relationship? What if that was what had been agreed to and a contract had been signed? Maybe I’m talking about extremes, but I’m also talking about my experiences. This happened to us not just once, but twice. Our relationship with each of their birth moms are constantly changing. We have not been perfect, nor have they. Thankfully, our relationships continue to grow in a positive direction, but there have been moments when we have had to adjust and communicate about what boundaries are needed by them and by us, just as with any healthy relationship. It’s a learning process.

    I don’t think I am against using contracts, but I suppose I think they should be used with caution and education on both sides. I like the idea of support groups or a buddy system not only for birth parents, but also for adoptive couples. There are so many emotions to deal with and new experiences to navigate. Positive assistance is a good thing, especially when you haven’t dealt with a situation before.

    We are hoping to adopt again currently. Would I still sign a contract? Absolutely! But I would want it to be a process between the birth parents and us as the adoptive parents, rather than being seen as a hard line or a tool of force by either party. I would want it to be about mutual respect and love.

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  30. My husband and I adopted through LDSFS and agreed to a contract based open adoption. We love our daughters birth mom and family. So happy with our relationship because there was a contract and it was mutually decided upon. I think contracts are fabulous. We respect our birth mothers decisions as she chose to take a new direction with her life, and we respect that she needs a connection to her birth daughter as well. In turn, she respects and loves us as an adoptive family.

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  31. I think open adoption contracts are a great idea. I think all states should have them. However, I do NOT think that they should be a requirement. I think they should be an OPTIONAL part (decided upon both parties) of an adoption plan. I guess a somewhat synonym is some marriages need prenups, some don’t, some should when they don’t & some shouldn’t when they do. And since NO situation is the same I think that the parties should decide & have their personal responsibility & consequences in that decision. Life is not always so cut & dry & a required contract is not a cure all. Being familiar with the legal field, contracts, can & do evolve into much more than the original recipients intended or bargained for regardless of which position the person is in an adoption plan. For my adoptions personally, having a contract would have been detrimental, & I fear that my children would not have had the opportunity to have open adoptions that they have with their birth parents now. I think a contract would have pushed the birthparents out. Our adoptions have evolved into open adoptions because of our consistent, loving efforts. It has literally been our non-intimidating & gentle reaching to our birthparent families that has built a level of trust where our children’s birthfamilies have decided to reciprocate a relationship where in the beginning they weren’t open for a relationship. I think that had a contract been thrown in the mix, it would have been threatening & we would have had closed adoptions with little leads as to their whereabouts.

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  32. I would have liked to have one for a small time period to make things feel more natural, not so forced. In that I mean that after we brought our daughter home from the hospital and had our first initial get-together with her birth parents we kind of felt like we were in limbo–who should call who, when is too soon to see each other, am I sending too many pictures, are we being annoying, we hope they feel like we’re reciprocating to them enough, and on and on. Our agency was completely hands-of once we’d seen each once after placement, stating it was really up to us. And while that’s nice it also made it a little hard. I think a gentlemen’s agreement sort of contract would be perfect for the first year and after that, when everyone has felt each other out the families can decide on their own when and how they’ll see each other.

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  33. I am probably on the fence as well. I can certainly understand both sides. I try to take the perspective of the best interests of the child always. Striving to that, Indiana has enforceable contracts depending on the child’s age at the time of the adoption. I do believe it is in the child’s best interests to know his or her birth family as much as possible.

    I find it interesting that this debate is coming to the surface at the same time that I am reading about various places dabbling with allowing more than two legal parents for a child, including not terminating parental rights as a part of adoption but simply making the adoptive parents the responsible parties. Now to get birth certificates updated to this trend….

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    • “ncluding not terminating parental rights as a part of adoption but simply making the adoptive parents the responsible parties.”

      so how would that work? could the adoptive parents lose custody down the road? move to joint custody? what defines responsible party?

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  34. I’m on the fence about it, too. I see positives and negatives for forced contact.

    However, I believe in Joseph Smith’s statement: “Teach them correct principles and they will govern themselves.” I also believe in the phrase “Under promise and over deliver” when it comes to adoptive parents and openness.

    I know it’s an ideal, but it works for most people. I feel that you would end up punishing the majority in order to catch the few who don’t understand the importance of openness and who need to be forced.

    Obviously not every couple needs to be bound by a legal contract to carry out their end of the bargain. Adoption education and positive adoption blogs have done wonders to teach newbies about the beauties and positives of openness.

    But I also know and understand that there are those couples who are so desperate, and feel so pressured, they will say anything to be placed with a baby. And that is terrible of them to do so, and it is certainly heartbreaking for the birth parents who get lied to and shut out. I feel terrible for those who have had that experience.

    Our experience with most of our son’s birth family has been wonderful. When our son’s birth mom lived in our state, we had sleepovers, we went to movies together, she came to family Christmas parties, she babysat for us, etc. We don’t need (or want!) a contract to enforce our relationship with her.

    And, we did have issues with 2 members of our son’s birth family (not the birth parents, themselves, but extended family members of one of the birth parents). They were hostile towards us, and bitter towards the adoption. We tried to be understanding of their grief and anger. But there wasn’t anything I could do to satisfy their insatiable (and sometimes outrageous) demands. Then there were threats. That was one of the most frightening experiences of our lives.

    If there were legal contracts, how would provisions be made to release couples from the obligation of contractual openness and visits when they are under attack? How would accusations be “proven?” How long would it take for the legal process to happen? As adoptive parents, we need the freedom to make the call to immediately terminate contact if there is danger.

    Even though we had a scary experience, I definitely see openness as a positive. I see it as a way for birth parents to see the child live the life they chose for him/her. That provides so many blessings. But most importantly, I see openness as a way for the child to have the information or relationship he/she needs to feel at peace with their adoption and their identity.

    I can see educating prospective adoptive couples as an ideal answer, but I can also see how involving the courts seems like an ideal answer as well. Neither solution is a catch-all, though because every adoption experience is different. And every adoption experience is unique because every adoption is made up of different individuals with their own circumstances and backgrounds.

    It’s such a tough subject!

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  35. Our daughter’s birth mom wanted a contract of some type, but we were told it didn’t exist. She told our caseworker (he was caseworker for both of us) that she was very worried we’d make promises and not keep them, so she wanted something legally binding. He told us of her worries, and all we could do was tell her it wouldn’t happen. So, she made a very, very detailed birth plan for the next five years. When we talked about it, we told her we wanted to follow it and do everything it said, but we wanted to also not feel like it was a responsibility. Send an email every day for the first two weeks? Sure…but when you tell us we HAVE to do it, well, it isn’t quite as enjoyable. We wanted to do it because we loved her and because we had a relationship with her. Two years later, we mostly follow it…but we moved to Alaska, and well, that makes frequent visits a little tricky. So would it have worked to have a legal document requiring them? No…it would have to be able to be revisited. Because of our move, things have changed on our side and things have totally changed on her side too. She is now married with a little baby too and busy with life, and I worry often that as more time passes she won’t be as involved in our daughter’s life. It is tough…I don’t know if anything legal would have changed it, because really, I am afraid both sides would again feel like the HAD to do things, but I do see the benefits because well, I have heard plenty of stories where the adoptive parents couldn’t do open adoption anymore because it wasn’t working. There are two sides to every story, and I only hear one…but it is tough. Anyway, more indecisiveness.

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  36. Not a good idea, in my opinion. But, our plan was to adopt internationally because we didn’t want any contact with birth parents at all.

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    • Why wouldn’t you want contact with birth families? They are some of my most choice and sacred relationships.

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      • I personally would not have emotionally bonded with a child if I thought there was any way the birth family was still in the picture. I would have been terrified of getting the call that they wanted him/her back. Maybe it isn’t rational. Maybe I watched too many Lifetime movies. Maybe I think birth moms change their minds too often. Maybe the laws favor returning children to birth families too often. We had looked into China and Guatemala for those reasons. Eventually, for those reasons alone, we tried an IVF refund program. With nothing to lose, we figured if it didn’t work we could still get our money back and adopt. IVF did become our way to parenthood. But I can tell you that I even worried that we would end up with the wrong embryo and still lose custody! Yeah, having a child taken from me is more that I think I could possibly bear.

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        • Yeah, having a child taken from me is more that I think I could possibly bear.

          How do you think birth families feel?

          • I really can’t even imagine what that must be like. I can’t put myself in that mind frame, even. To know that you can’t raise a child at this point in time and feel the need to relinquish that child…..I don’t know what that would feel like at all. I can only speak for me and my capabilities. I could not emotionally handle having a child placed with me and them have to give them back. So I chose not to be put in that position. I have a friend who can and did give back her daughter two weeks after placement. Not something I could do.

            I wonder why you asked that question of me. Because I dont think we are talking apples to apples here. There isn’t a birth mother out there who goes through what I described I would have to go through. Birth mothers in the context we are referring to do this of their own choice. I would, personally, never make that choice. They couldn’t have their child removed from them without their consent.

            Am I missing something?

  37. Adoption is partially based on a simple word “trust”. We are entrusted with these womens greatest gift and treasure; their child. Without trust there would be a lot of adoptions that would never occur, but pure and simple they trust us to raise their child. While I don’t agree with a force able contract I do agree with keeping the trust we have created with the birthmother of our child. If we make a promise to send pictures, call or write or visits. We should keep these promises. These promises are what helped create some of that trust. If we fear they may return to a bad habit and how our open, or semi open adoption could be effected and that of the child then this needs to be addressed so they understood that their habits or poor choices will not be allowed to negatively effect the growth of the child.

    In our adoption we adopted a 2.5 year old. He was adopted at the age of two 6 months after his infant brother was placed with his parents for adoption. We adopted him from the adopted parents who felt they were not meant to be parents to him but rather a bridge to his eternal family, us. And keep a semi open adoption with them to ensure the boys can know about each other. They made a promise to the birthmother to send pictures to her semi annually. That was their trust they put in her that they would keep their end of their promise. And we promised to help them keep their promise to her by sending pictures to them for her. We know little about her and will never meet her, but still she is trusting in us to keep our promise she doesn’t even know we made.

    adoption is partially based on trust keep the promises you made to your birthmother.

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  38. If I was an expectant mother considering adoption I would have serious second thoughts after reading the comments from *some* of the adoptive mothers on here.

    A woman goes through 9 months of pregnancy and labor and delivery, all the while bonding with the life growing inside her, only to go against every natural instinct in her being, to place a baby for adoption because she believes it’s in the best interest of her child and the possibility of signing a document outlining contact with her is unthinkable? Think about what you’re asking her to do for *you* and sign the dang paper, and live up to your dang promises.

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  39. I have been reading over posts and looking through different sites, trying to make the best choice for the child growing inside me. I have 6 children, Every one of them loved and a blessing in my life. Though I am not married, I’ve been in the same relationship for 13 years. All my 5 daughters have the same “daddy”. My son, who is 13, has never felt close to my daughters’ dad, and because of that, He has stayed most of his life with his “Grampa” (my stepfather/ mothers ex-husband). Though, for the most part, our relationship is very close, I always feel like I have been less than a mother should be or like I have abandoned him by allowing a distance between us.
    Now, I am about 6 months pregnant with my 7th child. I haven’t told a soul, not my kids or family… and my sig. other hadn’t noticed (until i finally blurted it out in an arguement a couple of days ago) that I was even pregnant. His response, “you gotta be s#!+’ing me… we can’t afford another baby, and i don’t want to do it again” This was not a surprise to me. So, I have put some thought into open adoption… VERY open odoption. My biggest fear is that The adoptive parents wouldn’t let me be apart of their lives once I sign over Parental rights. I am so worried about this that it is my only hold-up deciding adoption over taking my baby and the rest of my kids and starting new as a single mom of 7 with absolutely no support system, resources, income, or plan?. That scares me… I just wish there was a way to ensure the type of relationship I could have with the parents i would select for our baby would not be severed for any reason, as I would not sever the relationship with the father of my children and them, knowing that no matter what our relationship, the child(ren) between us we both love, and will love and need us both… just in very different ways.

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  40. I guess I just wish every adopting couple were more like what I’ve read from you… Then that would eliminate such a need for the contracts. Knowing I’ve made the right choice, with the right family, and that I wasn’t losing a child …but gaining a family whom I can share my blessing with confidently knowing that I AM a part of his/her life. I just am not in a ideal position to provide the home and care and stability or anything but chaos and fear of failing to be able to provide anything beyond love. It is not just about a new baby, but how will this effect my ability to provide for ALL my babies…? We are barel hangin’ on as it is now…

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  41. I don’t know that many will read this or even take this post to heart. It is worth a shot though right?

    I am a birthmom under very different circumstances from other birth mothers. I did not know I was pregnant and have had a private adoption since day one. I had one week (my birthdaughter was born on a Saturday and she was placed the following Friday) to pick a family and place her (i have a private blog chronicling the events. If you would like to be added to the list and see our story, just ask by replying and I will send you the information needed to see my blog).

    I read these comments and here is my opinion as a new birthmother and one unexpectedly thrown into the adoption world. My birthdaughter was placed seven weeks ago and her adoptive family and I have a great relationship. They are wonderful people to deal with a very private adoption and allow me to see her through pictures or visits!

    I believe there should be a process. When the birthmother decides to have her child adopted, I think she should be encouraged by a caseworker write down her expectations in an open adoption and let the caseworker have a copy. Then, if her caseworker sees some expectations that are maybe inappropriate or not feasible for one or both parties, the two work together to create a plan. I agree that it should start out as a bare minimum…pictures, emails, etc. Then when the birthmother is considering a couple she should be allowed to safely present this plan to the couple (and maybe even have the couple give their ideas about the openness they want, possibly write it down to be shared). Over time, the two parties can share the minimum of what they see/desire from an open adoption within the appropriate boundaries! This could in fact help with the relationship, knowing and understanding where each party is coming from. If either group as hesitations, these need to be evaluated. Then, after placement, I believe a re-evaluation may help too!

    I know I didn’t go through this experience and do not have a contract with my birthdaughter’s family, but we are working on our relationship. I have let her family know what I needed and when I felt they were not helping a situation. They have done the same in return. We are being honest and trusting each other. I was surprised to find out that they live closer than I thought they were. I receive updates all the time and am constantly getting pictures which is helping me help properly.

    I don’t necessarily think there should be legal action taken unless absolutely necessary. When I read about adoptive families promising the world and then going back on their word, I become sad. If that happened to me I would be devastated knowing I couldn’t see her grow. I decided on adoption to give my daughter more than I could ever give her. I don’t think I would regret my decision if her mom and dad decided to not send updates, but it would make me sad and angry. Education is the key. A word to adoptive parents, I know you are very excited to finally have your baby, but remember, someone had to get hurt emotionally to get your child their. If they want it open, try to work everything out so that the relation is HEALTHY and as HAPPY as possible. Birth moms, remember that many adoptive parents are so happy to have a baby, most of them don’t intentionally ignore you. Adjusting to life with a new little baby is difficult and sometimes they need time to adjust.

    Those are my thoughts. I apologize if people are offended, but this is my perspective as a birth mother.

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